Psychology of Film. The body observed, and the Power of Two

Why do we even go to the movies? In fact, why do we do anything in life? Think about it for a minute….

We go to the cinema or theatre to test our emotions and sensations. We choose a genre based on our mood and our age/gender/race and interests. The experience is exciting. A young by as Linda Williams explains, will find it repulsing to witness a boy kissing a girl on screen, however a couple on a date will most likely enjoy it (at least the female will). The boyfriend may or may not enjoy it, but he enjoys the experience and the opportunity to get out of the house (which is another quality of the cinema). Genres exist everywhere (TV, radio, books, etc). Sports is typically enjoyed by men. There can not possibly be a “dominant” narrative structure if everyone likes something else. However, the anatomy of the film body can be more powerful than one another’s.

Take Pornography, Horror, and Melodrama. Each are different in their own fashions, are presented for a certain audience, and have a certain level of fantasy. The emotion of melodrama differs from the sexuality of porn or the violence of horror. Before watching the film, we are unaware of what will occur, but we have a strong inkling of “sort of” what will occur, and our expectations. Emotions- Women may enjoy crying and feeling sorry for a character in a melodrama, but men are looking for the emotions of orgasms and cries of sexual pleasure in pornography. Horror presents screams of physical pain or a shatter of blood. But all in all, whether we are male/female, 20 yrs old/10yrs old/ 70 years old, white/black, we all show a certain emotion and think of a certain fantasy in our minds when viewing a film. The Climax of the film may arrive too early or too late, or may be lousy, but we our still inputting an attention, and a sensation.

Tom Gunning believes we are simply impressed from “movement to movement (866)”. The fact that at least two individuals are interacting together, and we are witnessing that, makes it magical. I can not think of a main-streem film that involves one individual or object. Good things in life comes in pairs. The Aesthetic of Attractions on set are only possible with two or more characters on set. With only one individual on set, most likely few excitements or mysterious occurrences will prevail. We learned that we the viewer present in our mind that we are the character on set. How can we quite possibly share the emotions and feelings of a character on set if we are alone with no occurrences. Shock will not exist because there is nothing out there to attack the person. {If there is one human and a robot trying to kill him, that counts as two individuals with interaction, it need not be two humans}. Of course we gain delight in seeing the two individuals engage sexually at the end of the film because that is a perfect closure for our psychology of film. The final attraction involves the two people engaging together.

A concluding example is The Pursuit of Happiness. Chris Gardner (Will Smith) goes through much of his impoverished life not knowing many people and not having many friends. All he has is his son, who is with him throughout the film. We learn about the father and son because the two of them are there, and they aren’t individually alone. The end of the film, regardless of the what opportunities lay before Chris Gardner, he is still there holding hands with his son. The power of Two.

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  1. Vincent Li Sun Said,

    May 2, 2010 @ 11:27 am

    it’s a very interesting idea you have mentioned about Tom Gunning’s work. i couldn’t help trying to figure out one film that is opposite to your opinion, which is that there must be at least two individual interacting; but i failed to find any (at least from what i have seen). so i think this opinion is very true.

    stories are based on the interactions between people, or people and other individuals, without interactions, it might seem no points at all. so when a film is telling a story, there must be some interactions, or this film will not have any points, at least not interesting ones. a good film, i think, is a film that excels in depicting the interactions between the characters, it is what creates the spark, and makes the story attracting and interesting. a typical example could be the love story between two people, like in the Titanic.

    in fact, only one interaction happening between two (or more) people is not enough for feature films, so they always have more than one storyline, which i think could be each considered one interaction.


  2. btrachtenberg100 Said,

    May 9, 2010 @ 8:46 pm

    There are actually quite a few films that play off the idea of human interaction and the void that develops in the abscence of that contact. “Cast Away” is one example and the place of the other person was personofied by a ball. But other people arent completely nessisary, because one always speaks to our fears of being alone. Speaking of fears, if people go to the cinema to live vicariously through other charachters so they can feel an emotion, would it be considered masochistic to subject oneself to feel intense fear or emotional pain? Or is it construed as socially acceptable because it isnt real?

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